June 28, 2011

Worldictionary - an Interesting iPhone App

I'm translating Dutch to English on Worldictionary
I've been playing with a cool app called Worldictionary.  It translates words from other languages instantly with one quick motion of your iPhone.  

I can think of many uses for the genealogist.  If you are in the Library or Salt Lake City or anywhere doing research and you find a set of church record books in another language, choose the language it is in from the list of language choices, point your phone at the word and a translation appears.

Worldictionary recognizes and translates between 21 languages, ranging from Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Germany, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Czech, Slovak, and Romanian.

I tried Worldictionary on some French text and then on Dutch text. It did a good job of translating the words. You can also translate two words side by side but it won't translate long phrases. However you can take a photo right in the Worldictionary App and then point it to each word in turn for a translation. One caveat: be sure you hold your iPhone steady! Even with its built-in anti-shake function, you need a steady hand.

Genealogists could also find this useful for translating original text in records. Worldictionary won't work on handwritten text but I tried printing out the written text of a Dutch church record and then using Worldictionary to translate my printed words. It worked! I wish I'd had it when I was in Salt Lake City trying to translate some German church record words.

You can also tap the translated word or words listed on the right hand side of the app to go through to a more thorough translation detailing example usage, structure, synonyms, and definitions from the web.

You can also translate from English to other languages using Worldictionary. I'm not sure how helpful that would be to a genealogist but it's a cool feature!

I tried using the app to translate words in books, on my computer screen and hand-printed by me. Everything worked perfectly. I'd like to try it on a street or highway sign or a restaurant menu but I'd have to drive to the next town to give it a try on the bilingual signage on the highway. I'm quite sure a menu would work fine since it worked on the examples I used (Book, computer screen and hand-written)

Imagine travelling to Germany, France or Spain or anywhere you don't read the language and you could instantly translate words in your hotel or restaurant or at the train station! The more I played around with Worldictionary the more I liked it.

It won't translate any text in Italics so if you encounter something in a book that is in Italics you'll have to print it out by hand and then point and translate with the app. 

Worldictionary remembers your previous word searches and allows you to build your own database for increased translation efficiency.

I did  encounter one small problem that I'm sure won't affect very many people. I was using the App so it was open and at the Translation screen. My doorbell rang so I set my iPhone down on my couch (face down with the app still open). I forgot all about it for a couple of hours.

When I picked my iPhone up it was red hot and the battery almost completely drained. Oops.

The poor app had been working and working, frantically attempting to translate my couch pattern into an English word. So take heed and don't leave the app open or face down on a surface or you'll drain your battery completely.

You must have an Internet connection for the app to work and it will cost you $4.99 in the App Store but I think it's well worth it. If you're a genealogist on the go or even working at home, you may just find this app makes it to your favorite app list. 

Disclaimer: Worldictionary did not pay me to write this review but they did provide me the app at no cost so I could review it. I tested it on my iPhone 3G using IOS 4.2.1 and the version of Worldictionary I used is 2.1.0

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